Even though the 2019 draft class is loaded on defense, quarterbacks remain the most interesting story.
This year’s QB class isn’t anywhere close to the 2018 group that produced five first-rounders, including four in the top 10. Still, teams and owners are looking for two commodities to lead their teams — young, offensive play-calling head coaches, and quarterback talent. Because of the need for young quarterbacks, it’s possible that four or maybe even five quarterbacks could go in the first round this year. Three could go in the top 10.
Now that more than 120 underclassmen have declared for the draft, let’s take a crack at projecting how the first round will unfold, in this 2019 NFL mock draft. These picks are made based on where we think players could land, using teams’ needs and prospect preferences.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Even though the Cardinals’ biggest needs are on offense — notably wide receiver and offensive line — they can’t pass up the best player in the draft. It’s not known if the Cardinals will play a 3-4 defense or a 4-3, but the addition of Bosa would give them two great edge rushers, along with Chandler Jones.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky
Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is considered the second-best defender in this draft, but the 49ers’ best defensive player is already a defensive tackle in DeForest Buckner. The 49ers desperately need an edge pass rusher, someone who can fill the “Leo” position along the line. Don’t be surprised if the 49ers try to trade back with a team that needs a quarterback, like the Giants or Jaguars.
3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
General manager Mike McCaccagnan isn’t going to pass up a value pick. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams probably will switch the Jets to a 4-3 defense. Imagine how good they will be at defensive tackle with Leonard Williams and Quinnen Williams. For the Jets' defense, it’d be all Williams all the time.
4. Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Oakland Raiders put together some of the weakest pass rush numbers in years. Ferrell could be a little bit of a reach at No. 4, but he fits what the Raiders need on defense. Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver could be another option here.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
The Buccaneers need help at the cornerback position, and GM Jason Light saw too many big plays happen against them on defense this year. Williams figures to be coveted by the Detroit Lions, but Tampa Bay could snap him up first.
6. New York Giants: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Giants General Manager David Gettleman better be looking over his shoulder with this pick. Haskins is high on the Jaguars’ draft board, and former Giants Coach Tom Coughlin needs to add a young quarterback to the Jacksonville roster. To land Haskins as Eli Manning’s eventual replacement, Gettleman will probably have to trade up.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
As the Jaguars rid themselves of Blake Bortles, they have to have a two-tiered approach to fixing the quarterback position. They need a short term veteran, like Nick Foles or Joe Flacco. But they also need a young quarterback to prepare for the future. They want Haskins, but might have to settle for Lock.
8. Detroit Lions: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Coach Matt Patricia is likely going to be looking for a defensive end if he can’t land Greedy Williams, but Lawrence would make the defensive line better. He and Damon Harrison form a nice inside tandem.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Logic says the Bills will fix their biggest need by going for the best offensive lineman in the draft. But it still wouldn’t surprise me if the Bills go for a defensive lineman to replace the retiring Kyle Williams.
10. Denver Broncos: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
John Elway said Case Keenum is the short-term answer at quarterback, and he’s entering the second season of a two-year deal. But what is the long-term answer? Jones is an intriguing prospect who could work his way into the top 10.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Devin White, LB, LSU
The Bengals need a speedy linebacker who can roam the field and make plays. Preston Brown is a free agent and Vontaze Burfict has been fighting injuries the past two years. The Bengals are getting older along the defensive line but are still good up front, which would set White up to make big plays against the run and the pass.
12. Green Bay Packers: Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida
Pass-rusher tops the list of the Packers’ roster needs. They could bring back Clay Matthews, who is a free agent, but he’s lost some of his ability. Polite could immediately bolster Green Bay’s pass rush.
13. Miami Dolphins: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Even though many people believe the Dolphins will go for a quarterback in the first round, it seems more likely that they’d wait until next year to do so. The Dolphins are in rebuilding mode and will look to strengthen their defensive line with a player like Gary, who would represent a great value here, while waiting to draft a quarterback in 2020. Next year’s class is expected to be loaded with top prospects, including Alabama’s Tua Tagolaivoa.
14. Atlanta Falcons: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Re-signing or using the franchise tag on defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is Atlanta’s main offseason priority, but he could use some help next to him. Whether it’s Wilkins, Gary or Lawrence, there is a good chance the Falcons will be adding to their defensive line with their first-round pick.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Derrick Brown in place of Wilkins at No. 14. Brown has returned to Auburn for his senior season.
15. Washington Redskins: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Redskins are in a tough spot at quarterback. Alex Smith is trying to recover from a gruesome leg fracture and it isn’t a guarantee he’ll be available at the start of the season. Nick Foles, Joe Flacco and other free agent passers might be too expensive to fit under their salary cap. That leaves them with the draft as their only realistic option to upgrade the position, which could cause them to look at Murray, the dynamic but undersized dual-threat Heisman winner.
16. Carolina Panthers: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
The Panthers have gotten old at the safety position, so getting the best safety in the draft would provide a big boost to the defense. They have a lot of needs. The draft offers plenty of pass rushers, so they might be able to get one in the second round. Thompson fits what Ron Rivera needs in the secondary.
17. Cleveland Browns: N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
General Manager John Dorsey made one of the better moves last offseason when he traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Getting an outside wide receiver to pair with him would help to improve an offense that exceeded expectations with rookie Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
18. Minnesota Vikings: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
Everyone knows offensive line was the biggest problem for the Vikings last season. The position has to be a top priority for them in the draft, and in this scenario, one of the best in the class falls to them.
19. Tennessee Titans: Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State
The retirement of Brian Orakpo created a need for an edge rusher. Burns had 10 sacks last year for Florida State and would be the type of playmaker who fits well in Coach Mike Vrabel’s defense.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kelvin Harmon, WR, North Carolina State
It’s likely the Steelers could end up with two first-round picks this year as a result of trading away star wide receiver Antonio Brown. If that happens, they will be looking for defensive help at inside linebacker, edge rusher and cornerback. But a Brown trade would leave them in need of a wide receiver to pair with JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Harmon is the best available here.
21. Seattle Seahawks: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
There’s a good chance General Manager John Schneider will trade back in the first round, as the Seahawks only have four total choices in the draft, and are missing a second-rounder. If they keep this pick, though, the team’s top priority is to find an edge rusher opposite Frank Clark.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Cody Ford, G, Oklahoma
The Ravens are committed to quarterback Lamar Jackson and the running game, so it’s fitting that the Ravens would give him another blocker to open holes and help move the chains. Greg Roman has been promoted to offensive coordinator, and he will install a lot of the running plays he called for Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.
23. Houston Texans: Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia
It’s not out of the question that the Texans could draft offensive linemen with their first and second-round picks. The line was so bad this season that Coach Bill O’Brien had to limit DeShaun Watson to 25 pass attempts or fewer per game, just to make sure he could survive the season.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago): Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
It’s not out of the question that the Raiders could use one of their two lower first-round picks (acquired in trades involving Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper) to trade for the Steelers’ Antonio Brown. Jon Gruden has always been a fan of Brown, and having three first-rounders gives the Raiders the most clout in Brown trade talks. If they don’t trade this pick, they need to keep adding to their defensive line and pass rush.
25. Philadelphia Eagles: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
The Eagles have been trying to fix their cornerback position for the past three years. Murphy is one of the best coverage players in the draft and a great fit for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme.
26. Indianapolis Colts: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Andrew Luck needed a reliable wide receiver on the other side of T.Y. Hilton all season long, and yet he still managed to lead the Colts back from a 1-5 start and into the divisional round of the playoffs. Metcalf would help solve that need.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas): Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
If they don’t get Antonio Brown in a trade, the Raiders will draft the best receiver available with one of their first-round picks. In this scenario, that could be the cousin of Antonio Brown, Marquise Brown, who is one of the draft’s most dynamic playmakers.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
The Chargers have playmakers at edge rusher and in the secondary, but they need to get more stout in the middle of their defense. Simmons would provide them with some more muscle on the interior defensive line.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
The Chiefs had pass coverage issues throughout the season, and it cost them in their AFC championship game loss to the Patriots. They need to invest in a cornerback, and Baker, who played plenty of man coverage for Georgia in the SEC, could be a good option.
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans): Dalton Risner, G, Kansas State
The Packers offensive line needs an interior blocker after struggling for depth at the positional all season. It doesn’t hurt to give Aaron Rodgers some extra protection up front, although the team will need to find a playmaker or two later in the draft, if not free agency. Green Bay got this pick after the Saints traded up in last year’s draft to select edge rusher Marcus Davenport.
31. New England Patriots: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With Rob Gronkowski getting older and Dwayne Allen not looking like a long-term replacement, Coach Bill Belichick should start looking for his tight end of the future. Fant is an athletic pass-catcher who could fit right into the Patriots’ offense.
32. Los Angeles Rams: Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion
The Rams traded for Dante Fowler Jr. at the trade deadline because they need an edge rusher. If he leaves in free agency, that need returns, and Ximines offers upside at this point of the first round.
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